As translators, one of the technological advances that has revolutionized the way we work is this little thing called Google. Since the late 1990s, a world has opened up to us, language professionals, so that we could research terminology and read articles in our second language not only to keep up with trending expressions, but also to acquire more targeted knowledge in our specialty areas.
Well, it's been almost 20 years since this great search engine was invented, so how come people still don't know how to use it?
These past few months, I've been stunned by at least three separate issues that could have been easily resolved with a simple action: googling it. Having worked with book translations and covered the subject in my capacity as Content Curator at eWordNews, I'm always amazed by the fact that, to this day, translators still don't get credit in the media for the books they translate and, worse yet, sometimes journalists completely ignore that the book is even available in their own language!!
Okay, let me take a breather... And a couple of steps back before I lose my train of thought.
In my "past life," I went to Journalism school―all while working as a translator and language instructor―so I have a good insight on how things work in the media. Even more intensely now than back in the early 2000s when I was in college, the news nowadays is largely moved by press releases, because it's easier to report on something when you've already received all the information in a press kit put together by companies and event organizers. In other words, all the leg work involved in reporting is already done for you and, as a journalist, you just need to get the word out through the media outlet you work for.
So, let's get some specific details on the three issues that triggered this post:
1. Really? You couldn't even look up the publisher's website to get the correct information on a book?!
We all know that book reviews rarely give any credit to translators, whether the review is on the media or on a blog. So we should praise publications that point out (1) that a book was indeed translated and (2) who the translator was. Or so we thought...
Fellow Brazilian translator Cláudia Mello Belhassof specializes in book translations and noticed that Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo ran an article about one of her translations. Philomena: Uma mãe, seu filho e uma busca que durou cinquenta anos became famous because the original book in English inspired a movie by the same name starring Judi Dench.
Cláudia read through the review and not only was it mentioned that the book had been translated into Portuguese, but credit was also given to the translator! (Maybe not everybody knows it but, believe it or not, books don't translate themselves...) And, to her surprise, credit wasn't given to her, but to ANOTHER TRANSLATOR!
This mistake could have been easily avoided by one simple trick: googling it!
And, of course, googling it is not always enough. Checking the credibility of sources returned by the search engine is what makes a difference―as we all know, since translators must research reliable terminology in order to complete their work accurately. In this case, going straight to the most credible source means visiting the publisher's website, which will most likely point out exactly who worked on a book translation they published.
2. Really? The book is yet to be translated and released in Portuguese? How come I have a copy?!
"Amon," written in German by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair, was released last April in English (translated by Carolin Sommer) with the explanatory alternative title "My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past." But I've had a paperback copy of the book for more than six months now―in Portuguese! When I heard about the story and learned that a dear friend, Petê Rissatti, had translated "Amon: Meu avô teria me executado" from German into Portuguese, I asked my parents in Brazil to send me a copy for Christmas.
Following my theory that journalists feel more comfortable processing and roughly translating press releases―or even foreign news from prestigious international media websites―and simply "forget" to research information when writing their own articles, this is the only explanation for Brazilian newspaper O Globo to have completely missed the fact that "Amon" had already been translated and published in Brazil before the English version became available. The newspaper most likely had access to a press release written by The Experiment, which published the English version of the book, and decided―rightfully so―to report on this incredible story.
As any good book translator should do, Petê likes keeping tabs on news stories and reviews on translations he helped make available to Brazilian readers. But, to his surprise, O Globo originally said in its story that the title remained unpublished in Portuguese...
This mistake could ALSO have been easily avoided by one simple trick: googling it!
Petê contacted the newspaper to let them know that he himself had translated the book from German into Portuguese and that publisher Agir had released it in 2014. Since the story ran on April 5th, the Brazilian newspaper removed that section of the article, updating it three days after the original publication to finally mention that the book came out in Brazil in September 2014.
While searching the newspaper archives, I also found this story from 2013, which was probably published when they received a press release after the original German edition was published. It seems that NO STORY was published last year by the same newspaper when the Brazilian version came to light.
3. Really? You decide to translate the title of a book "freely" even though it was published in the target language decades ago?
After Hillary Clinton confirmed that she was running for president in 2016, Brazilian magazine Veja published an article about ten things readers probably didn't know about the former First Lady. You would think that, when writing about such a prominent figure as Mrs. Clinton, journalists would double check all sources to make sure they got things right.
Nope! While probably "translating" a story found in English, the journalist responsible for the article in Portuguese didn't even bother to research the name of a book Mrs. Clinton wrote back in 1996, when her husband was still in the White House. The Veja story brought this "Did you know?" fact to Brazilian readers, mentioning that "It Takes a Village" could be "loosely" translated as "Leva apenas uma cidade"...
This mistake, too, could have been easily avoided by one simple trick: googling it!
É tarefa de uma aldeia, which is the correct title in Portuguese, was published in Brazil in 1997 by Revan.
And, to make things even more entertaining, Mrs. Clinton recently wrote yet another book, entitled "Hard Choices," which might as well be in the process of being translated into Portuguese and could be released in Brazil any moment now. When running a brief article about this new book, Agência Estado freely translated the title as "Escolhas difíceis". Nothing wrong with that, since there's no official title in Portuguese, but they didn't pay attention to how the original name is actually spelled and ran the story mentioning "Hard Joices". Close enough, right? :-O
In any case, my little article is only intended to point out the lack of attention that books in translation get from the Brazilian media, but I can assure you that it's a worldwide problem. We often read the translator's name in a publication when the reviewer is pointing out something they didn't like about the book and that could only be attributed to a translation mistake, obviously―even when reviewers themselves aren't able to read the original in order to have enough grounds to support their gut feeling about the so-called mistake. When reviewers don't find anything wrong with the book, they usually don't even mention that it was translated, maybe because it would go against their views to actually praise a translator for a job done well...
Having said that, since this is the month we celebrate International Translation Day, let's raise awareness of what translators do and how we contribute to worldwide communications. Revisiting a wonderful campaign initiated in September last year by the Brazilian Translators Association (ABRATES), let's urge publishers to always mention the translator's name on their website and all press releases they sent out to the media. Let's also urge the media―including blog reviewers―to always indicate the translator's name as well when reviewing an international book made available in the local language.
In Portuguese, the hashtags created for the campaign were #NomeDoTradutor, #CadeOTradutor and #QuemTraduziu. I'd like suggest the following counterparts in English: #NameTheTranslator, #WhoTranslatedIt, and #TranslatedByWhom. What hashtags could you use in your language?
RAFA LOMBARDINO is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She is the author of "Tools and Technology in Translation ― The Profile of Beginning Language Professionals in the Digital Age," which is based on her UCSD Extension class. Rafa has been working as a translator since 1997 and, in 2011, started to join forces with self-published authors to translate their work into Portuguese and English. In addition to acting as content curator at eWordNews, a collective blog about translation and literature, she also runs Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators, and coordinates Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS), a project to promote Brazilian literature worldwide.